Thursday, December 22, 2016

2016 Top Ten: Wendy Caster

Due to some health challenges, I only saw 42 shows in 2016--my lowest total in decades. Yet it was still difficult to carve my best list down to 10 entries.

I remain in awe of the breadth of theatre available in New York--and I remain dedicated to the idea that New York theatre is much more than Broadway. In fact, only one of my top ten entries is a Broadway show; four were Off-Broadway; three were at City Center or St. Ann's; and the remainder were Off-Off-Broadway. In other words, New York continues to offer superb theatre options for less than the cost of a movie and popcorn.

Here's my list, mostly in alphabetical order, followed by some random "bests." (Where possible, I've provided a link to my review.)

Blossom: Puppet theatre at its most emotional best.

Cabin in the Sky: Not a great show, but, oh, those performances!

Coriolanus: Physically thrilling.

King Charles IIIEmotionally and verbally thrilling.

A Day By the Sea and Women Without Men: The Mint doing what the Mint does, terrifically.

A Little Night Music: Beautifully sung, unmiked, heaven.

Small Mouth Sounds: Can one produce an excellent show with limited dialogue? Author Bess Wohl and director Rachel Chavkin can.

A Streetcar Named Desire: Gillian Anderson: one part vulnerable, one part dangerous, and all parts heart-breaking.

Sunday in the Park With George: The version that finally made me love this uneven Sondheim/Lapine musical.

The Royale: Theatre magic at its best and most devastating.

Best replacement: Marin Mazzie in The King and I. Not only was Mazzie amazing, but the entire production was better with her in it. She was sexy, funny, strong, and real--and sang gorgeously, of course.

Better on TV than in person! She Loves Me. I enjoyed this at the Roundabout, but loved it when it was televised. The close ups made it pop.

Missed opportunity: Shuffle Along. Yes, it was important, but it should have also been really good.

Most disappointing single performance of a great show: Fun Home. The cast was clearly tired--they had flown to Florida for a charity gig on their day off. I salute them for their good works, but I also paid to see them at their best. Instead, their timing was off; subtleties were lost; and the show felt a half hour longer. If that had been the only time I saw the show, I would have no idea how brilliant it is.

Best special event: Light in the Piazza 10th Anniversary Reunion Concert. One of those evenings that makes you feel intensely grateful to be alive.

Wendy Caster

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